Who Is Telling Our Stories?

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear some story in the news or online about teachers or teaching. These tend to fall on the spectrum of martyrdom to disgrace by spotlighting the heroic or the failed teacher. These stories sell newspapers or create enticing ‘click bait’, but they paint inaccurate or incomplete stories about what it is to be a teacher. Politicians, parents, and people everywhere can develop skewed perceptions of teaching that frequently leads to teacher-bashing, disrespect, and even cries for endless reform.

I would like to see that change…Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 5.52.40 PM

Our silence can create a vacuum that is often filled with angry or uninformed voices.  Too often teachers are painted as this monolithic group who think and act similarly. Look around our schools.  There is such a variety of experience, background, philosophy, pedagogy, and passion. I think the chorus of our voices create a rich song, if we are brave enough to sing it!

There is often a perception that teaching is relatively easy. We may be inadvertently perpetuating that myth when we don’t attempt to shift that belief. I am reminded as I watch athletes competing at the Olympics this summer that they make it look easy-sometimes even effortless. Though we know that is not the case, we might still be surprised at the time and work put into those performances. I think that is often the case with teaching. Though people rarely have the opportunity to see teachers in action, when they do visit a classroom, or when they hear their children talk about it, they aren’t grasping the effort that went into making that lesson or that classroom environment happen.

Now, I’m not advocating that anyone starts whining about how hard teaching is or Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 6.02.54 PMcomplaining that ‘nobody understands’. I would just love to see teachers share their process more. We all have dreams, hopes, reflections, guilt, epiphanies, doubts, inspiration, and ideas that our colleagues can appreciate. We don’t have to make ourselves vulnerable or uncomfortable to be more open and honest. Teachers have a great sense of humor-look at the memes that flood our Facebook walls!            (creds to someecards)

To start, I would first encourage a teacher to think about their audience and ask themselve, “Who would I like to tell MY story to?” (this will help you to consider format) It could be for your students as you share your writers’ notebook or sample pieces of writing. It could be for their parents as you create a newsletter of some kind. It could be for your community as you share newspaper articles or presentations. It could be for your colleagues with a Facebook or a Voxer group. It could be for an even wider audience with a YouTube channel, Twitter Chat, blog, or book. Maybe you simply want to write for YOURSELF. I have found writing to be an incredible opportunity for discovery!

We must, however, be cautious that we protect the stories of our students. They are not for us to tell. Their identities, perspectives, and thoughts are sacred and must always be honored. I will never use a students’ name and only use their work or image with the expressed consent of the parent and the student. I like the adage “Measure twice, cut once” to inspire me to “Think twice, post prudently.” There are many humorous anecdotes best kept private!

 In my district we have a handful of teachers who get together somewhat regularly to write. Some write poems to their grandchildren, journal about their lives, or work on projects they’d like to publish. We are a community. Several teachers I approached have expressed an interest in starting to blog about their teaching. As school begins I want to support them in this process. An easy place to get started is setting up an eduBlog. This YouTube video will walk you through it.

Regardless of your format of choice I want to invite you to write your story. Start putting those ideas, experiences, and feelings into words. It’s cathartic, it’s empowering, it’s important.  I welcome YOUR ideas for the encouraging this process as well. Write them to me!!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Summerlost by Ally Condie (author of the Matched series)Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 6.13.26 PM

The summer after Cedar lost her father and brother in a tragic accident, her mother buys a summer house in the town where she grew up. Cedar makes a new friend, Leo, at the Summerlost theater festival and together they explore the mysterious death of Summerlost’s most famous young actress and discover more about life than about death. A tender story about dealing with loss and the guilt that can sometimes accompany it. Ally creates beautiful characters that show how diversity doesn’t have to be the central theme of the book, but rather the real life experience and traits  of the characters within. For middle grade readers.

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